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Russia's Aeroflot to resume talks on Alitalia stake - Putin

Russia's largest air carrier Aeroflot will resume talks on buying the Italian government's 49.9% stake in airline Alitalia, the Russian president said on Friday.

"I spoke to the Aeroflot board chairman today. They are ready to resume contacts with Italian partners," Vladimir Putin told reporters in Sardinia after meeting with Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi.

Putin said the situation surrounding the Italian airline is complicated. "Debts need to be paid, the company has to be made profitable, and talks have to be held with the government and trade union," he said.

Aeroflot said earlier in the day it does not intend to reconsider the issue of buying the stake.

"I believe we gained useful experience by participating in an Alitalia privatization tender, but the information we have does not inspire sufficient optimism to participate in the project for a second time," Aeroflot CEO Valery Okulov told Russia Today international news channel.

However, Berlusconi had told reporters on Thursday that he did not rule out that talks with Aeroflot to buy Alitalia, which stalled last November, could be resumed.

"All options are being considered as long as Alitalia remains the national air carrier, and decisions are made in Italy," he said shortly before a meeting with Putin.

Alitalia's losses in 2006 were 380 million euros ($604 million). A strategic investor picked by the Italian authorities will have to implement a rescue plan for the carrier.

During the tender for the government stake, the previous Alitalia management preferred a bid by Air France-KLM, but in March the talks were suspended.

RIA Novosti


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